Five great ways to use AI in the primary classroom

Artificial intelligence can help save time, increase inclusion and support teachers in their non-specialist subjects, writes Gemma Clark

AI in the primary classroom, teachers

Early in the summer holidays last year, I was still like a coiled spring, yet to unwind, and decided that I wanted to experiment with a generative artificial intelligence app to make my work life easier in the following year. Many hours later, I was still experimenting with the app, and the possibilities just kept coming.

Here’s the thing: I am not at all technologically inclined, but AI apps and websites are very user-friendly (and many are free). There are several ways that life can be make easier for teachers by AI in the primary classroom, so here are five examples:

1. Literacy lessons

As a primary teacher, I spend a lot of time creating tailored pieces of writing as examples to show the class. Whether it is a persuasive letter on the use of fireworks or a creative piece of Halloween-themed writing, children need to see an example of what one looks like, including specific elements of writing that you are looking for, such as effective use of sentence openers. This is something that can now be done effortlessly by asking an AI app to “create a persuasive piece of writing for eleven-year-olds arguing that schools should close for snow days”. You can even ask the app to include specific examples of punctuation, connectives, or openers that you are focusing on for the current piece of learning.

2. Maths and differentiation

We all know that when teaching maths, providing worded problems is a good way to challenge children and deepen their learning. However, thinking up these problems is another time-consuming job. With a simple AI app, this can be done in seconds using a simple prompt such as “give me rugby-themed multiplication problems, multiplying three-digit numbers by one number and provide the answers”. Of course, you could also simply ask the app to give you, for example: “Eight maths questions, three-digit numbers multiplied by a single digit (with answers provided)”. You then have questions for your main cohort. You could then go on to prompt “give me Disney-themed worded problems using the above” and you will be provided with fun questions about mermaids and seashells or lion cubs and zebras.

3. Lighten the mental load

Another fantastic way to use AI is for proofreading and checking your grammar. As a teacher, there is nothing worse than a typo ending up in your materials, such as the class newsletter. You can now copy the newsletter into an AI app and ask it to “check spelling and grammar, ensuring British English spelling and conventions” (the last part is important as some AI apps tend to default to American English). You can even get AI to help you draft class letters with simple prompts e.g. “write a letter to parents politely asking them to be aware that children in the class are in a WhatsApp group and it is causing some upset and falling out” and AI will generate a professional letter which you can tweak as needed.

4. Plugging the gaps

As primary teachers, we are expected to be experts in all parts of the curriculum, but few of us could claim to be experts in every subject. AI can be very useful in helping you plan lessons where you might not be as confident or experienced, like science, sport, art, music or technology. For example, you can ask an AI app to “plan me six tennis lessons for eight-year-olds” (giving an approximate age works well with AI apps). AI will then plan six lessons including ideas for warm-up games. If you are still unsure, you can give further prompts such as “how can I explain the basic rules of tennis to children”.

5. Inclusive practice

AI can help create inclusive classrooms. You can ask an app to “recommend children’s books that build racial literacy” or “recommend a class novel for ten-year-olds with a disabled protagonist”. AI can also help in practical ways, such as translating texts into other languages for displays and classroom tasks, or be used to create very personalized visual timetables. For example, instead of a cookie-cutter image of a house for “home time”, you could easily have an app create an image of a high-rise flat to more accurately represent the kind of house that a particular child lives in.

Like the internet, AI will have its problems, but it also has a lot of potential, and I believe it is in our best interest to embrace it and learn how to use it to our advantage.

Gemma Clark’s new book Artificial Intelligence in the Primary Classroom (Crown House Publishing, 2024) is out now.